Mixed reality aids emergency response

AUTHOR: Inavate

British engineers from BAE Systems are working in collaboration with academics at the University of Birmingham in the UK to develop augmented reality systems as small as a contact lens. Used in conjunction with a briefcase sized portable command centre, the researchers believe their system could revolutionise complex emergency response and military battlefield operations.

The system works by intelligently mixing the real and virtual world together to improve the situational awareness, decision-making and asset management of the operators. The user can see themselves and their surroundings along with virtual images, video feeds, objects and avatars, seamlessly bringing together the critical battlefield elements in a single place.

With the easily deployed workstation, a virtual information rich workspace can be created. Another application example is a wearable cockpit to provide pilots with a customisable environment to enhance their situational awareness while also reducing the cost of cockpit upgrades.

The technology is brought to life by an Oculus Rift style headset allowing military commanders to direct military operations, such as troops and Unmanned Air Vehicles, across a virtual representation of the landscape for real situations or simply as part of a training solution.

The current demonstrator headsets could be replaced with something as small and light as a pair of spectacles if when other technology such as Fraunhofer’s smartglasses – reported last week in InAVate - hit the market.

Professor Bob Stone, simulation & human factors specialist at the University of Birmingham said: “Being able to physically manipulate virtual objects in the real world has been challenging scientists for 40 years. Since my first virtual reality experience at NASA nearly 30 years ago, the technology has evolved from the primitive head-mounted displays and computers to today's world where we can interact with complex virtual objects, integrated in real-time with real-world scenarios. “Our work with BAE Systems shows just how close we are to delivering the next generation of advanced mixed reality interfaces for future applications not only in defence, but also in such important domains as engineering and healthcare.”